With apologies to the exceedingly devoted legion of fans of both franchises, the best way to explain Bakugan Battle Brawlers to the uninitiated is by saying "it's pretty much like Pokemon." Now, before someone unleashes their well-trained Pikachu or Hammer Gorem on me, let me explain – I'm not suggesting that the worlds the franchises take place in are the same, nor am I suggesting that that the characters are interchangeable, just that gameplay unfolds in similar fashion, the trainer trains his fighter and then unleashes them in battles.
The latest title in the Bakugan world is Bakugan: Battle Trainer. It is scheduled to be released on March 21st, but when has that ever stopped Blogcritics Gaming from getting our hands on it to bring you the inside scoop? Okay, fine, it's stopped us regularly, but not this time! Oh yes, we sat down with our DS, we trained Bakugans, we souped up their powers, ran them in ball form through mazes, bounced them, rolled them, and unleashed them at max power.
The game starts out simply enough, you, Bakugan trainer extraordinaire, have lost your memory about recent events due to some transportation issues. Not to worry, that doesn't really affect anything, it just allows your friends to tell you what's been going on and draw you into the current tale. Said tale revolves around the capturing of Bakguans that has taken place. They're being held on a nearby space station and you have to train your single Bakugan so that the two of you can warp in, take out an enemy or three, save a Bakugan and warp back home.
Bakugans get trained via a series of minigames, like the aforementioned maze as well as a Tetris-like game, and more. Successfully complete the minigames and you max out your Bakugan's G-power. You can also earn bonuses that get your more power for the battles.
As for the battles, they unfold in simple fashion – whomever begins the battle with the most power wins, it's straight up math. Battles can have up to three Bakugans on each side, with only one Bakugan fighting on each side at a time. Once your character has entered a battle, they can't be substituted out until their power hits zero, but the goal is simply to eliminate all the enemy fighters, no matter how many of your guys it takes. Win battles and you free Bakugans for your use down the line. There are 30 total Bakugans available, so maxing their power and bonuses out can take some time.
With no-stress battles, lots to unlock, cute anime-like depictions of characters, and two-and-a-half dozen different Bakugans to take control of, fans of the series will no doubt enjoy the latest iteration. We were certainly amused during our hands-on session. The real question for non-fans of the series will be about the accessibility of the tale, and the length, replayability, and interest in a title which essentially asks you to do the same thing over and over again. And that is the question we look forward to answering once we get to review the final version of the game.